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Q. My husband and I were recently married in a very small ceremony in Hawaii and afterwards spent our honeymoon visiting a few islands. Now that we’re back with family and friends and starting our lives together, we want to throw a big backyard party that’s casual and inexpensive as our substitute reception. Please help us with ideas.
-Party Potential

A. Extend the environment you enjoyed at your wedding and have a luau party with your friends and family. Send out invites that show the theme and ask guests to dress for a Hawaiian party. (Of course, be ready for plenty of bad, loud shirts on the men, but that’s part of the fun!)

Create a menu that is easy to prepare. Look for foods you can make a day or few days ahead of time and marinate pork, chicken and other meat the night before; it will be a little less expensive than serving fish. Put someone in charge of the BBQ duty so you and your new husband can enjoy the party. For dessert, carve a large watermelon into a basket shape and fill scooped out space with fresh fruit like pineapple, mango and of course watermelon. Instead of cake and pie, serve fuss-free cupcakes. If you choose to make the food yourselves, rather than hire a caterer, then consider hiring a bartender/server(s) to help serve food and drinks. They can usually be found at local cooking or bartending schools for about $20-25 and hour.

Have games like a limbo stick ready and give the girls and guys fake grass skirts to wear while dancing. There are plenty of string lights, tiki torches, servingware and party accessories to pull together a fun, affordable luau theme event to help extend the celebration of your wedding. Create a music play list of beach songs, traditional hula music, and add in the theme of Hawaii 5-O.

The invites (from finestationery.com):

Checkerboard SanLori Designs

For the table (from plumparty.com):

hula honey' cocktail napkins multi-colored plastic palm tree glasses - set of 6  Merchant2 Graphics Products Large 15198

Set the scene (umbrella cover from target.com):

Nylon Umbrella Cover

Hang tiki lights and hand out leis and hula skirts to complete the luau atmosphere. And have fun!

Q. My husband and I moved into a new house with a great yard this past Spring. We’re planning our first party and we want it to be outdoors since it’s summertime and we love to BBQ. I want to impress my guests with a sit down dinner outside, but want them to mingle around the yard as well. I need ideas! I’ve been unpacking boxes for so long I feel like my head is full of cardboard. Oh, and I’d like to give a party favor as well.
-Destination Outside

A. I’ve got several ideas to help get you started with your party planning. Whether you have a clambake, grill the usual burgers and hot dogs or create a signature cold summer drink, there are a few extra touches to help complete the success of the party. Why not bring a beach feeling to your backyard with these ideas:

Serving food like ribs or a clambake can be messy so use an oversized striped beach towel as a tablecloth. We love the ones from landsend.com

Decorate for your clambake with lobster corn holders and a lobster pot to cook lobster or corn. The lobster pot can also double as a beer cooler. (both items below from surlatable.com)

Le Creuset® 16-Quart Lobster StockpotLobster Corn-Pick Set, Set of 4

Set the scene with beach themed accessories like 'pectin shell' party lights and a clam shell toothpick holder with seashell toothpicks:

'pectin shell' party lightsclam shell toothpick holder

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